Duval County

Gate to bus yard where 5 school buses burned was left open, Jacksonville police report says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax has learned new details about a fire at a Student Transportation of America school bus yard that happened early Friday morning.

The fire is being investigated as arson by the State Fire Marshal and Florida’s Bureau of Fire, Arson, and Explosives Investigations, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office incident report.


JSO responded to the bus yard on New Berlin Road East at 2:14 a.m. to assist the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department.

A man sent to respond to the yard by STA told JSO that the gate “was left open and was supposed to be locked by the last bus driver leaving the property,” the report said.

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The gate was wide open when JFRD arrived, the JSO report said, and there was no sign of forced entry.

A witness told JSO she was driving on Interstate 295 near Heckscher Drive when she saw “large smoke clouds off the expressway” and then “large flames.”

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She got off the interstate and pulled into the bus yard parking lot and saw multiple school buses on fire. She also said the front gate was wide open and “she then heard a loud explosion,” the report said.

JSO made contact with the landlord for the property. He came to the yard. What happened next is redacted from the report, but then JSO appears to be saying what was observed in a surveillance video, stating “unknown suspect at 0109 parking on the back side of the building. The suspect is seen walking down a small path on the side of the building and then walking to the back of the buses on the fence line. The suspect is at the buses where the fire started and is down there for about 5 minutes. The suspect is then seen running away from the fire back to the suspect’s vehicle before fleeing the scene. The fire started at 0118 hours. The suspect appears to be driving a red vehicle.”

Five buses in total were damaged by the fire. JSO’s report said the damage to the buses is estimated to be $400,000.

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